Days after thwarting what could have been another Sandy Hook tragedy, Antoinette Tuff has become a household name.
The school staffer who works in the front office at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy just of outside Atlanta, Ga., became a hero when she calmly and compassionately persuaded 20-year-old gunman Michael Brandon Hill to lay down his AK-47 style assault rifle. 911 tapes reveal that Tuff opened up to Hill about her life story, offered reassurance, and even told him at one point that she loved him.
Her instincts were spot on, and incredibly brave. But can they–and should they–be taught to every faculty member as part of an effort to improve school safety?
A number of professionals say yes.
“She did all the things we try to teach negotiators,” said Clint van Zandt, former FBI profiler and hostage negotiator, on NewsNation Thursday. “She was a great ‘go-between,’ she identified with the aggressor, she offered help, she minimized what he had done, she helped develop a surrender ritual, she told him what to expect, and told the police what to expect, she offered love, said she was proud of him, she offered him a positive future–every one of those things is something we spend weeks teaching negotiators, and this lady did it intuitively.”
According to school district spokesman Quinn Hudson, Tuff did have training for how to deal with situations involving trespassers and emergency protocol. He told CNN that Tuff and two other staffers were specifically trained to deal with hostile situations.
“The training is so often and extensive, they thought [the real situation] was a drill,” said Hudson.
Gregory Thomas, former director of security for New York City schools, stressed the importance of safety drills on NewsNation Thursday, and said that training for these types of crises fits in with other emergency protocols.
“It’s always important to do these kinds of drills under stress,” said Thomas. “We’re trying to move schools to the point of stressing people while they’re doing the drills, so they won’t just be doing them matter-of-factly.”
Thomas said school safety was an “evolving practice,” and that the incident in Georgia would provide a lot of lessons.